Friday, March 10, 2006

South Dakota ban hits close to home

The South Dakota Legislature has opted to ban abortion in all circumstances except to save the life of the pregnant woman. Not to preserve the woman’s health. Not to end a pregnancy resulting from rape or incest.

Let me tell you what the South Dakota abortion ban would mean to me if I lived in South Dakota and got pregnant.

If I were to become pregnant, it would probably not be life-threatening to me—if I received plenty of medical attention from a perinatologist (weekly appointments sufficed during my first pregnancy, but I might need more intensive monitoring for a subsequent pregnancy), if I followed my doctor’s instructions to the letter, if I took assorted prescription medications, and if I called my doctor promptly if anything seemed amiss. Sure, I’d probably end up in the hospital a few times, the baby would be born very prematurely, and my health would suffer greatly (I’m talking about organ failure here) over the long term, but I probably wouldn’t die so long as I was a model patient and my doctor was a model physician. Sure, my lifespan might well be shortened as a result of the pregnancy-related complications, but I probably wouldn’t die within nine months of conception. Under South Dakota law, termination would not be an option for me, despite the clear and present danger to my health.

You might say, “Well, if your health concerns you that much, then you just have to make sure you never get pregnant.” I do have an IUD, but those aren’t absolutely 100% effective (very close, though). “So why doesn’t your husband get a vasectomy?” Well, that posits that he’s the only man with sperm. If he got a vasectomy, that would do nothing to prevent a rapist from attacking me. “Why don’t you get your tubes tied, then?” From my perspective, my body has enough problems already; I hesitate to assume the medical risks associated with a completely elective surgical procedure. I hope never to become pregnant again, although I wouldn’t mind having another child—but if I did get pregnant, I’d seek an abortion.

I know most of my readers are pro-choice, but there may be a few of you who don’t object to South Dakota’s abortion ban and its lack of an exception for preserving the woman’s health. Such a law sends the message that my life isn’t worth it, that my life and health don’t matter, that an embryo has more right to a full lifespan than I do. I beg to differ. If you don’t support a woman’s right to choose abortion, if you think preserving a woman’s health isn’t a good enough reason for abortion—tell me why you'd want me to die early.

[Note: I also strongly support the right to abortion in cases where the woman’s health is not at stake—I deplore all aspects of the South Dakota statute. Other circumstances are beyond the scope of this short personal essay, however.]

18 comments:

Charlie said...

Things have been on a downward slide since Phyllis Schlafly and her cronies helped kill the Equal Rights Amendment. It boggles my mind to think that anyone could actually stand in opposition to equality.

We've probably all read state senator Bill Napoli's (R-SD) repugnant statement on just what it would take to warrant an abortion (if not, see that link). If there is anyone reading this who is still anti-choice, here's another choice quote of his, this time in support of shotgun weddings:

When I was growing up here in the wild west, if a young man got a girl pregnant out of wedlock, they got married, and the whole darned neighborhood was involved in that wedding. I mean, you just didn't allow that sort of thing to happen, you know? I mean, they wanted that child to be brought up in a home with two parents, you know, that whole story. And so I happen to believe that can happen again.

You see, these people aren't content to outlaw a woman's ability to control her own body. They want to force your daughter to marry her rapist. They want to make sure she stays at home with her rapist's child. Eventually, they'll go after her right to vote, and after that they'll clamor for the good ol' days when women were property owned by men. And if at any point you decide enough is enough, any more would be going too far, they'll call you a liberal and a traitor and say that you aren't a real Christian and quote 1 Timothy 2:11-12 and Deuteronomy 22:28-29.

E. said...

Ugh, this all makes me so mad I can hardly put a string of coherent words together to express my frustration and anger.

I have to admit that my analysis of the rabid anti-choice mindset is hobbled by my inability to conceive of logic so petty and inconsistent. To fight, sometimes to the point of violence, to preserve a fetus from the moment of conception (and sometimes, as with emergency contraception, even before), but to expend no effort or energy to ensure the health and welfare of that baby once it's born, nor even to ensure free, universal prenatal care. Not to mention the health and welfare of the woman.

To the extent that I have a reasoned analysis, it accords with Charlie's: whether individual pro-lifers recognize this or not, the anti-choice crusade is about controlling women, making sure that we are limited by our biology to the fullest possible extent. (While human beings in general continue to strive to break from any limitation our biology imposes on us, from corrective lenses to organ transplants and on...)

In 1978, Gloria Steinem predicted that if men menstruated, the government would rush to fund a national institute to stamp out the monthy discomforts of dysmenorrhea. I often wonder how the face of the abortion debate would change if suddenly men conceived and bore all the children of the world.

DoctorMama said...

Such a good post, orange.

As a rabid pro-choice advocate, I have to say that I actually understand where the extreme anti-abortion folks are coming from. If a fertilized egg seems like as much of a person to you as a real living human being, then you're going to be against abortion in every case except the death of the mother. What makes me furious are the people who support a ban on abortion except in the case of rape or incest. What exactly about rape makes that fertilized egg suddenly not a human being? There's only one difference: presumed consent on the part of the woman. In other words, a loose woman should pay the price and be made to carry a child to term. "Good girls" who were forced to have sex shouldn't be punished. Their embryos can be disposed of with a clean conscience!

This blaming ideology can be seen in attitudes toward the death penalty as well.

It all makes me furious.

Mona Buonanotte said...

I can't top any of the comments here, except to say, "Right on."

Anonymous said...

If men could conceive, would any of this ever be an issue?? Anti-abortion advocates are stuck in the stone age and have the archaic mindset of a rock.

The circumstance in which pregnancy occurred is irrelevent. I can go have any kind of surgery I want, as this is a free county. I am permitted to do whatever I want to my body as it is a free county. The act of an abortion falls under these freedoms the Constitution affords every person. The situation in South Dakota, no doubt will be heard by the Supreme Court which will bring another shit-storm. At 17 I became pregnant and at 6 weeks (minimum to terminate a pregnancy) I had an abortion. If I didnt, I would NEVER have the life I have. No College, no graduate school, no career. Additionally, in my late 20's i learned it is a very, very bad idea for me to carry a baby to term as i have a medical condition that would either kill me or the baby or both. Something that wasnt known when i was 17!

It is an individual decision and I wish these ridiculous oppressors and their followers find a hobby and get the hell out of my uterus.

Anonymous said...

...and it (abortion) still remains the easiest decision I ever made, and the hardest thing I have ever done!

JT said...

I can't think of anything more incisive to say than you and your commenters have... though Zorn's blog has some comments on it that make me want to get violent. It seems there are quite a few men who feel nothing but irritation for their potential effect on those women whose pleasures they obviously can't live without. I did like Zorn's comment that guys who don't want to take a chance should abstain from spreading their seed, forcibly or otherwise.

Northern_Girl said...

Great post, Orange. The ban in South Dakota does hit close to home.

Feral Mom said...

The personal is the political...and, as Orange illustrates so well, the political is personal. Thanks for this post, and to all the lucid comments above! I have little to add, except that I always knew South Dakota sucked.

Orange said...

This is sort of off-topic, but one of my best friends from junior high got sent to South Dakota around age 16, when her parents wanted to remove her from certain elements they deemed unsavory. Of course, up in small-town South Dakota, there wasn't much for the teenagers to do but drink beer, get high, and have sex in the barn, so my friend ended up pregnant; she came home over spring break for an abortion.

Mignon said...

Thank you for that incredibly intelligent and articulate post, Orange. My mom, currently traveling overseas, fears her inevitable return to the states, where apparently rabid conservative extremism seems to have become the norm. The only consolation for her is that she won't have to constantly state and restate her liberal position to foreigners that only see Americans as Bush disciples spouting scripture as reason and hate as a value.

When will the pendulum swing back? What will make Americans reasonable, logical and compassionate?

NWO said...

Oh, and don't forget that your most-likely-premature child would most likely have handicaps, which would be undertreated due to cuts in medical services brought about by our compassionate politicians and their religious sponsors. There might be a right to life, but not right to a decent life.

Dianne said...

"Such a law sends the message that my life isn’t worth it, that my life and health don’t matter, that an embryo has more right to a full lifespan than I do"

But only until it's born. Then they suddenly loose interest. As you and others point out, if you had a baby, it would be very likely to have serious health problems. And the anti-choicers aren't lobbying for legislation that might help you or the child. Or starting charities that might help or generally doing anything constructive.

Sometimes I think that the anti-choice people are as much anti-child as anti-woman. They want to force women to give birth to children who will be unwanted, unhealthy, or both and at the same time refuse to help them in any way. These are the same people who say things like "spare the rod, spoil the child." Maybe they're angry that your children are wanted and loved and therefore may have an advantage over their children whose birth they considered a duty and a burden?

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